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In an advice column I read this morning, a 29-year-old woman wrote in complaining that she’d been hanging out with a guy and his friends all the time, but she really wanted him to just ask her out on a real date for once — you know, alone.

According to the advice guru who responded, it’s a common problem he’s seeing among Millennials these days. We’re using technology as a crutch — texting to set up “casual” group outings, flirting by way of Facebook likes — to help us avoid outright rejection.

What we end up with, though, are messy, ill-defined pseudo-relationships and a lot of anxiety about setting up formal dates that build real connections. It’s such an issue that several colleges are now offering Dating 101 classes. Really.

As a Gen Yer who has been on her fair share of “Uh, is this Ultimate Frisbee game supposed to be romantic?” non-dates, I wasn’t surprised to hear it.

And as a giant nerd, I also wasn’t surprised to find that the column made me think of modern sales relationships, too. Because it seems the problems plaguing Gen Y daters today are also hurting client-producer connections.

It’s easier than ever for agents to send out mass emails and schedule automatic tweets and status updates. And — just like going mini-golfing with 10 other people — there’s nothing wrong with that.

But while your clients might appreciate those things, they’re not activities that promote close, real relationships. So when an advisor walks into a client meeting, expecting a warm reception — I mean, he sent all those helpful emails, didn’t he? — he’s instead going to be greeted as just another salesperson.

I’m not saying producers shouldn’t use technology. I think social media really can help build relationships — if a real person, and not just a link-sending robot, is using it, that is. Even mass emails have their place.

But like the poor letter writer who just wants a fancy dinner out, your clients need some personalized attention, too. A handwritten birthday card, maybe. Or a condolence call when a loved one passes. Those small gestures, while they might seem antiquated and time consuming, are actually a really big deal.

If you want a quick one-and-done sale with a client, then, by all means, do nothing but bombard her with generic, impersonal emails. But if you’d like a client to stick around for generations and recommend you to friends and colleagues, pick up her hanky, offer your jacket and, for God’s sake, make some dinner reservations.

For more from Corey Dahl, see:

Change: There’s a middle option

5 celebrities we hope had disability insurance

NIMBY or nimble?


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